Takeover 2016: Can Bradenham be beaten?

The workshops were great and the people even better. The best part of my internship so far.

I have just spent the last two days at Bradenham, Grant’s Thornton training centre in Buckinghamshire. My course was called ‘Developing your Business Impact’, but this was just one of the things I learnt during my stay. The workshops covered how to give a great first impression, how to make an engaging and memorable presentation, as well as many other top tips for succeeding in your career. If you are currently an intern awaiting your turn at Bradenham, or thinking of applying to Grant Thornton looking for a real insight into what this firm can offer you, keep reading!!

Bradenham Manor is a fifteen minute drive out of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, and set in a stunning landscape- think rolling highs and beautifully manicured gardens. The training took place in the Manor itself, alongside the catering and reception areas. Most of the accommodation is in adjacent buildings where you also find the bar, games room, and gym (the last of which doesn’t receive too much attention!).

As the workshops started bright and early on Monday morning I travelled down on the Sunday afternoon. I am the only intern in the Norwich Office so I was a little hesitant about turning up on my own, but I soon bumped into people I had met at the Intern Conference in London the previous week. We ordered Domino’s and put the football final up on a projector which turned into great fun. It also meant I knew a few friendly faces for the next day which put me at ease.

Monday started by introducing ourselves to the rest of the group. There were 22 interns with three group leaders, which meant that when we split off into study groups we got a lot of one-on-one training. The main theme of the day was to strengthen our presentation skills to help with our final presentation in the last week of our internships. We started off by thinking about people in the media who particularly resonated with us. My group came up with Barack Obama, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah, who we found charismatic, funny, warm, and probably the most surprising for some, relatable.

We had a chat back together as a group and came to the conclusion that the impressive characteristics they displayed fell under three categories; tonality (how they used their voice), body language, and content (what they spoke about). Perhaps the most surprising thing I learnt during my stay was the importance of each of these for a first impression- what you say only counts for 7% when someone is first forming an opinion on you! Instead you should prioritise an open stance, use an appropriate tone and give eye contact. But most important you need to be flexible; every situation is different and the best skill to learn is how to adapt each of these categories to suit it.

During the day we also got to practice our presentation skills by preparing and giving two short speeches of around two to three minutes each. For the first, we were told to imagine there was a role to apply for within the firm. We had to then present our six best features or achievements which made us the best candidate. It went surprisingly well, and apparently my nerves were undetectable which was an added bonus! This highlights another important lesson I learnt this week. Even if you are nervous or apprehensive, normally people can’t tell unless you give it away. Exterior confidence is something fairly easy to master, and interior confidence and self-belief will certainly follow.

The workshops ended at 5.30pm, at which point we rushed to dinner in order to maximise the amount of time we could spend outside in the sun afterwards. We walked around the grounds admiring the surroundings, and then started a game of football which got far more competitive than we would care to admit! After an exhausting hour or so, and some very sore feet, we headed to the bar for a couple of drinks and to relax with the rest of the people on the course for the rest of the evening.

Tuesday started bright and early at 9am, which the full English breakfast and coffee helped a lot with! There was a greater focus around group work in the morning, in which we split into teams of six and were given a very vague and challenging topic to present on. The task was to spend an hour coming up with a ten minute presentation to deliver to the rest of the groups. My group got ‘Yes. No. Maybe so’’…yes we were as confused as you probably are! We decided that for us it was hinting at decision making. After the presentations we had a discussion about how it varied from our experience of solo presentations. For some people it was a lot harder as they felt more pressure to deliver a good performance, whilst others felt more relaxed and supported.

Individuality was not just relevant in this way, but was also apparent in presenting techniques. There is not just one winning formula on how to be a great public speaker. The key to success is to work out how you can use your personality to feed into your speech, and play to your strengths. Some people are naturally funny, whereas others are great story tellers. Some are great at delivering a clear and compelling message, while others are great at using their voice to alter the mood in the room. You just have to work out what works best for you!

Our final presentation on Tuesday afternoon was our chance to put all we had learnt into practice. We had to talk for ten minutes on something of our choice and the variety of topics was endless. My group featured a talk on Latin and Ballroom dancing, the art of lying, a road trip around America and the thrill of endurance sport. I talked about how I volunteer at my local Foodbank, something which I am really passionate about. To see how far people had processed in their technique and confidence was incredible. By the end of the two days everyone seemed to be a pro!

I was shocked by just how sad I was to leave that evening. I had made great friends in such a short period of time! It was a fantastic experience, full of laughter, learning curves and a little too much food. Grant Thornton has already offered me so much more than experience in Commercial Audit, and it only makes me more excited for what the next three weeks will bring.

If you have any questions about Bradenham or about my experience as an intern, feel free to email me at lucy.ij.wilkes@uk.gt.com

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